Author: Kerryn Wayow

What Are You Working For in Your Career?

Why do you get up to go to work in the morning? As a career counsellor, I think this is the most important question you can ask yourself. If you ask the average person why they go to work, a majority of people would likely say one word, “paycheque”. Financial motives are probably the major reason that most people work. Working provides a living, enabling us to pay bills to support ourselves and those that we care for. However, in a study published by BetterUp Labs, they surveyed 2,285 working professionals. The study found that almost 9 out 10 individuals would sacrifice 23% of their future earnings, which is roughly $21, 000/year for work that is meaningful. So, maybe the money notion is not so clear cut, and this finding is contrary to the idea that most people simply work for the almighty dollar.

In another informal survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, the author surveyed a group of professionals between the ages of 28 and 58, asking them what they regretted most about their careers. He found that by far, the biggest regret came from those people who opted into high-paying but ultimately dissatisfying careers, implying that they wished that they had not taken the job for the money. But then this begs the question, why are most people attempting to go after top dollar instead of meaningful work? What is the true importance of finding meaning and purpose in our careers?

“What man is, he ultimately becomes through the cause which he has made his own” – Karl Jaspers

Find Your Meaning and Purpose

Simply put, meaning and purpose are important because they impact other essential career elements. In my experience as a career counsellor meaning and purpose is vital to career fulfillment. Having meaning and purpose within your career increases many factors such as motivation, engagement, empowerment, career development, job satisfaction, individual performance and personal fulfillment. * Meaning and purpose contributes to greater work satisfaction, beyond monetary rewards. Meaning can be defined as the importance or role that work plays in one’s life. This implies that perceptions about meaning are defined by each individual person.

Imagine this. You are at a lake during the winter, standing at its banks. The river appears to be frozen, but you can see in many areas that the ice is extremely thin. If you to stand on these thin spots you could possibly fall in, as they might not hold your weight. If I offered you $5 dollars to cross the lake to get to the other side, would you cross?  I think it would be safe to assume that most of you would say a definite “no!” However, what if I kept raising the amount to say $1,000 dollars or even $10,000 dollars, would you cross? Now, let’s suppose that your young child has crossed to the middle of lake and fallen in. Time is of the essence and you do not have the time to get assistance, what would you do?

I think that most people would not hesitate to try and reach their child. What has changed in this story? The factor that is changing are your reasons for crossing, as the actual situation remains the same. To apply the frozen lake scenario to a career, two people can perform the same work for very different reasons. Their “whys” for doing their jobs differ. Each person values very different things.

A Career Counsellor Can Help With the Discovery of Your Unique Perspective

Ultimately, the career development process is about discovering what is truly meaningful to you. We don’t live in a vacuum, and a lot of us have taken on reasons for work that are not truly our own. Our choices can be influenced by our parents, family members, personal idols/heroes, life circumstances and societal expectations, the list goes on. We adapt our beliefs and actions, pursuing work for many reasons even though it may be completing dissatisfying. Working can even get dysfunctional, leading to extreme levels of tension, stress and anxiety. A career counsellor can help you discover your own unique career perspectives and beliefs.

It’s important to separate the signal from the noise and begin to reflect on what is important. Having a great career means finding work that is truly meaningful to you. What are you really working for? Are you simply working for a paycheque, and is this enough? Do you want a career that is meaningful and purposeful? Are you living the career plan of someone else or your own? Have you stayed too long in a job that is contrary to your own values? It is time that you ask some deeper questions to give yourself a real chance at experiencing true joy, satisfaction, contribution, meaning and purpose in your career.    

* On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review., Brent D. Rosso, Kathryn H. Dekas, Amy Wrzesniewski (2010 )

Finding Career Clarity

You want to leave your job and do something else. You want the next job to be a new change. So, the first thing you do is scour postings on job sites that seem interesting to you. You then either tweak the resume you have, or you create an entirely brand new one. You apply to postings and then wait for a response. Unfortunately, all you hear back is crickets. You make another round of attempts to apply, and once again silence. What happened? You are lacking career clarity.

Unfortunately, this is a typical approach and also a very common mistake made by job changers. When individuals don’t get results, it can lead to a lot of discouragement. This leads them to be stuck and then having a whole host of bad feelings, wondering why they don’t hear anything back. It’s at usually at this point, I get a call from clients saying that their job search is unsuccessful, and they want me to redevelop their resume. Sometimes I am able to help with a resume redesign and there are other times I cannot. The main reason I can’t assist these individuals in the latter situation is that there is a lot of them don’t know exactly what they are looking for.  

During a job search many people know that they want to leave their job but have difficulty figuring out what to do next. During their search, they might take their resume and randomly apply to all the jobs that appear interesting. Unfortunately, I have seen this method fail, time and time again. Most people who use this approach lack true career clarity. If you are trying this approach, I can say with some confidence that you might get lucky at finding something, but that’s all it will be. Your job search will be sheer luck. However, as they say, “Luck might not be a strategy, but setting yourself up to be lucky might be.” During  a career transition the best strategy is to set yourself up to be as lucky as you can possibly be.

Find Career Clarity Before Implementing Strategy

One successful approach to this particular problem is to have career clarity before you try to implement any strategy. When you decide to put out a resume and scour job postings, this is actually only one type of job search strategy. In a prior post, “Do you see your career vision clearly” I talked about the importance of having a clear vision. Without clarity in what you are exactly looking for, you will not be able to use other strategies or make the ones you are using more effective.

Attempting to make a career transition without clarity is like trying to walk a tightrope with a blindfold on. You certainly can do it, but you make it way more challenging for yourself. I strenuously suggest that you never make a career transition without having deeper clarity for the role that you want to attain next. Otherwise, not having clarity can lead to great frustration, doubt and discouragement, when you are not able to reach your goals very quickly. Here are some suggestions for getting greater career clarity.  

Know What Are You Trying to Resolve?

As mentioned in a Forbes article, your intention is critical part of finding clarity. There are any number of reasons to quit your current job. Many people will quit because the pay is not high enough or they don’t get along with their frontline manager or another supervisor. Others will think that the culture is ‘toxic’ or may be searching for better work-life balance. Whatever the reason, it’s important that you know exactly what you are trying to resolve prior to quitting your current job. Many people can overreact to an employment situation, sometimes quitting before knowing what they are jumping into next.  

This is exactly what occurred for millions of workers during the “Great Regret”. A study of approximately 2,500 workers found that 72% of job changers experienced either “surprise or regret” that the new position or new company they quit their job for turned out to be “very different from what they were led to believe.” For these people the grass was not greener on the other side. It’s important that you treat your job change as a strategic move, as opposed to a reactive one. If your move is strategic, then you will be better able to figure out what career options and alternatives would be most beneficial for you.

Be Clear on Your Specific Goals

As mentioned, job changers typically have a clearer idea of what they don’t want, as opposed to what they do want. Because of this, many people will try to remain open to many job possibilities and options. Keeping an open mind sounds very rational, doesn’t it? I agree it does. However, keeping an open-minded approach is not a great one when you are trying to conduct a job search, because employers are expecting the opposite.

When employers post for a position they are seeking a person with a very specific set of skills. They want a specialist to help them resolve a particular set of organizational problems, not a jack of all trades. As you might be aware, many software Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used to screen candidates out of the recruitment and selection process.

Therefore, before you start putting out your resume, you must have a clear career objective and goals. Start to think about your own unique career outcomes and important factors, beyond pay and benefits. These may include social connections, skill/knowledge development, work-life balance, continuing education, growth and job flexibility. Write these down, keep them as priorities and make them central to your search. These are all key areas that you need to consider when making critical career decisions.

Be Future-Oriented

In my professional experience one of the most challenging job seeker to assist is the job-hopper. I have encountered many individuals who go through a series of jobs very quickly, appearing to lack interest in any specific job role. Seeing this on a resume makes a poor impression on hiring managers and recruiters when they are screening and reviewing applicants.

In a CNBC article involving manager’s attitudes about job-hoping, Amy Zimmerman, the chief people officer of Relay Payments noted that while job-hopping is “more acceptable than ever” now, a job switch under a year of tenure is still “too quick”. She then went on to mention, “It sends quite a few negative signals. Number one, you lack commitment. Number two, you lack perseverance. It tells me that if the going gets tough, you get going.” Many recruiters suggest that there is a sweet spot for switching jobs. As a prior recruiter myself, I also had difficulty forwarding these candidates on to employers, fearing that they would not stay in a job opportunity for very long. If candidates started to leave roles too soon, it would not make a positive impression on employers that I was recruiting for.

A key aspect in attaining a highly fulfilling and rewarding career is determining what roles are extremely satisfying to you. Identifying and finding these positions does not require job-hopping, it requires strategic exploration. Rarely do people find that ‘perfect’ role in the first or few initial steps, it requires a longer career journey and thinking about your future. Also, as discussed in the following section, many better paying and exciting roles, tend to be higher level ones. To attain these positions requires more knowledge, experience and expertise. You need to think about your career as a longer-term pursuit and journey. Your career is not Frogger, where you are surviving by constantly reacting to career obstacles and difficulties.

Understand Your Potential

Your potential consists of your career skills, interests, values and core personality traits. However, there are many people that attempt to fit into a role, without having any awareness of these key areas. How many of you have been in a job where you are not exercising your best talents? Have you ever been in a company where you were at odds with the organizational culture? It’s important that you gain inner awareness and insight of your “career self’. This will allow you to more effectively align to the roles, company and work environment that you are choosing.  

Also, the success of your career is based on the value that you can offer employers. If you are unaware of what distinctive talents and experience you have to offer, you will not be able to market yourself competitively. The  labour market is a highly competitive environment, especially when applying to top companies. If you do not know which areas of your potential you want to continuously grow and develop, you will always be at a disadvantage. People with extremely successful careers know how, where and when to leverage their career potential.

Job, Career or Calling

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There are people looking for greater career challenges and growth. For these individuals, it’s about achievement. There are people who want to have greater fulfillment and impact on the world through the work that they do. For these individuals, it’s about contribution. For others, their job is simply about a paycheck. What are you looking for in your work?

You might think that the main motivation for why people work is a matter of  life circumstances. We all have bills to pay. A lot of individuals would argue that the reasons for working are not that important, they are personal and as long as the person is ‘okay’ with the job, it’s all ‘fine’. However, I truly beg to differ. It’s important to pay attention to the reasons why you work, because the perspective you hold directly affects your overall career satisfaction, and possibly your paycheck too.

Regardless of the level of satisfaction that a person has with their career right now, I would be willing to bet that every single individual would desire a more meaningful and fulfilling career. If given a choice, I think most people would want to be in a job that would make them happier. This is true, even if they do not actively seek it. However, many people remain feel trapped in jobs that they do not enjoy. These people stay in a demoralizing work environment, stuck in endless rows of cubicles, feeling underchallenged, bored, stagnant and completely uninterested with their day. There is no point to work, beyond the paycheck. Unfortunately, many people stay in these jobs because they never choose with intention to have a more conscious, open and aware perspective of the many other important reasons to work, beyond pay.

Your Work Perspectives Matter

The way a person views his or her work, either positively or negatively, is not just about the job itself. Perspectives about work are about the individual, as each and every person can experience and see an identical job in very different ways. It’s important to realize that your own individual perspectives lead you to seeing your work in either a positive or negative light. You must begin to understand your own individual perspective, because it can help you to experience your work with greater joy and fulfillment. Research has supported that people can view their work in one of three ways: job, career or calling.

Researchers in the field draw some major distinctions between these 3 categories. People who see their work as a job, are usually only interested in material benefits such as salary and perks. They do not seek to gain or receive any other type of reward from it. They see work as a means to allow them to acquire resources to enjoy their time away from the job. On the other hand, there are people who have a deeper investment in their work, and value more than just monetary gain. They may value higher social standing and empowerment. These individuals value achievement, seeing their work as a career. In the third perspective, there are people who find their work inseparable from their life. They feel that their work is a calling. People in this category are looking for fulfilment from their work. Some people assume that the word calling as one that is religious or spiritual. However, this term is more related to work that is socially valuable or beneficial.

Studies have demonstrated that the perspective you have with your work, leads to very different outcomes. Research has confirmed that out of all the categories, in general, callings are associated with greater life, health and job satisfaction. Evidence confirms that people who reported having a calling as having higher life and job satisfaction than people who noted their work as a career or job. One study also found that people who reported having a calling had higher income, as well. These findings contradict the idea that the reasons for having work are unimportant and is simply a matter of individual preference. The perspective you have of your work directly impacts how satisfied you will be, and it’s very important that you evaluate how you view your work. Try the following to gain a deeper understanding:

1. Intentionally Change the Perspective of Why You Work.

It’s easy to stay in a job, believing that it’s mainly about the money and security. I don’t claim this to be untrue. However, you should ask yourself, “How do other people find jobs that are more deeply satisfying and meaningful, while still being able to pay their bills?” If they can achieve greater career fulfilment, why can’t you? I would argue that it is your career intention that is different. There is a saying that goes, “Seek and you shall find”. If your intention in your work is only about money and security then that is what your job will turn out to be. However, if you broaden your job perspectives to include other important reasons to work, you will start to look for them. Change your perspective to seek greater job satisfaction and joy, and you will keep pursuing this goal. Eventually, you will find these vital career qualities. Reevaluate and explore all of your job choices, question your intentions.

2. Seek, Don’t Wait

Many people stay in a job as opposed to seeking a calling because they simply wait. I understand that this is intuitively obvious, but it’s amazing how many people will remain in a job, never even beginning to look at other possibilities around them. Many people wait, hoping that the piano of motivation and inspiration will magically fall on their head. Unfortunately, attaining a very fortunate and successful goal rarely happens without energy and effort. When you think of getting to the top of a mountain, how do you get there? If you intend to get to the top, you cannot wait around for inspiration and motivation, or a magical wind to blow you there. To get to the top, you must consciously decide to climb it. Getting to a particular goal requires the same energy and effort, and so does achieving a more satisfying career. To attain highly rewarding work you must seek it out, as it will not fall into your lap by accident or coincidence. Make constant career exploration, networking and searching a top priority of your career management habits. Continue to seek until you attain the level of joy and fulfilment that you want in your career.

3. Examine Your Values

You career values can be defined as your personal principles that assist you is defining your ideal professional environment. These values can help you identify your most ideal work settings and important role activities, and they frame what is truly important to you when you work. They are also a source of stimulation and enthusiasm for work.

It’s very common for people to continually grind it out at work, using up high levels of motivation and energy to be productive in jobs that are misaligned with their values. Unfortunately, this misalignment becomes a sore point, and they lack what is needed to make a job enjoyable. These unmet needs also become obstacles to productivity. Therefore, finding a role that meets your needs and aligns with your values is key. When this happens then you can better to focus your energy on mastering your job activities that you enjoy and also grow your skills.

Identifying what matters most to you such as your specific type of work environment, job activities, professional development, management styles, social connections, and work-life balance will help you find the exact role that enhances your professional satisfaction and joy.

4. Extrinsic versus Intrinsic

We all need to work for a paycheck, this is a given. However, there are other factors that are as important to having a fulfilling career, and how you are motivated is an essential part of this satisfaction. Psychologists have examined the different ways of thinking about motivation. They view motivation in one of two ways, either a person is motivated extrinsically or intrinsically. Extrinsic motivation is when a person is motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity because of a reward or punishment. The motivation is generated from an external condition, outside the person. Intrinsic motivation is when you perform an activity because you find it rewarding on its own. You are generating motivation from within, internally. As a result, you are performing an activity for its own sake rather than from the desire for some external reward.

When you are searching for a job, it’s important to focus on the internal rewards, just as much as external ones. It’s important when evaluating a position to ask questions related to achievement, creativity, autonomy, challenge and personal development. Finding out what specifically motivates you, so that you can thrive and attain a satisfying career is an important as salary and benefits. Understanding how you are motivated will deepen your self-knowledge about where you are most productive, identify areas where you can accelerate learning, and find activities that are the most rewarding and satisfying.  

What’s This Going to Cost Me?

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Being self-employed has been a real eye-opener, because it has allowed me to see things from both sides of a sales transaction. Similar to everyone else, being a consumer, I’m concerned about the cost of things. On the other hand, having to offer my services and figuring out what to charge has been challenging. As such, when people inquire into my services, most people will typically first ask, “What’s this going to cost me?” I completely understand this question as a consumer because we all need to know if we can afford a purchase. However, when it comes to coaching and  counselling services, I suggest that this is not the first question that you should be asking. The main question you should be asking when considering counselling services is, “Will this make my life better than what it already is?”

Scarcity versus Abundance

I firmly believe that people have many types of mindsets. One type of mindset is that of ‘abundance’ and the other is one of ‘scarcity’. I would argue that the majority of people have a scarcity mindset, which sees limitations instead of opportunities. Individuals with this way of thinking see shortages everywhere. Everything is something to hoard or fight over because there will never be enough. I believe that it was this mindset that was the main reason for the empty shelves of canned produce during the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020. There was also a shortage toilet paper and paper towels on the shelves as well. Interestingly, I could understand why people were concerned about food, but what was up with the toilet paper?! Luckily, everything did come back into balance when the media reassured people that there were no actual shortages.

Coincidently, the scarcity mindset is a strong reason for why people stay in jobs that they do not enjoy or have little satisfaction, along with possessing a strong negativity bias. Individuals will not leave their current jobs if they do not believe that they can achieve something more meaningful and fulfilling. Many people believe that there is a finite level of ‘good’ jobs in the market, and do not want to lose the job they already have. It is this perspective of ‘loss’ that is prevalent in the minds of people with a scarcity mindset. This can also lead to hoarding what they have. Instead of making investments, they are afraid of losing what they already possess. However, the most corrosive aspect of this mindset is being envious or jealous of other people’s successes. Instead of viewing other people as a great source of information and chances to gain benefit, they see other people’s achievements as ‘stealing’ their opportunities. In the end, it is a winner versus loser view of life. Unfortunately, these feelings and perspectives of scarcity dominate critical life and career choices. It is the main reason why potential clients first ask the question concerning cost. They are not convinced of the ‘benefits’ of my services and the knowledge I can share. For those who do not join me, they view it as a loss.

On the other hand, an abundance mindset is about believing there can always be more. People with this view believe that there are more experiences to try, more life to explore, more things to fall in love with, and more ways to turn bad situations into successes. In many ways it shares similar aspects to a growth mindset, where you and your capabilities are not carved in stone, they can be changed and developed. With regards to career, these individuals believe that there are other jobs that are as good or even better than what they already have. Even when they experience a career setback, they treat that failed opportunity or event as a stepping stone towards greater knowledge, new skills and exciting experiences. When they see the successes of other people, they understand that their accomplishments do not take away, diminish or degrade their own. They are able to celebrate competition and the achievements of others, because it is a source of inspiration and motivation, pushing them to become better.

No one falls exclusively and totally into either a mindset of abundance or scarcity. For many people, there can be a substantial overlap. However, being in high level state of scarcity when making important decisions can be detrimental and give you an extremely biased and slanted perspective. So, to generate and grow an abundant mindset, try the following:

1. Focus on Gratitude

To create an abundant life, you can’t feel jealous about what other people have, and be extremely negative and unappreciative about what you have. Change your focus to feelings of gratitude for what your have achieved and what you have acquired. Focus on the idea of expansion and growth. You have strengths, passions, gifts and talents.  Treat these with great appreciation, especially for the relationships and blessings in your life.

2. Celebrate Competition

Many people can see competition as negative, perceiving it as winning or losing, success or failure, and better or worse. This is the main reason that losing can leave people with feelings of jealousy, bitterness and sadness. However, there are many people who can use competition to become better. Many people can be aware of how others are performing and use that as motivation and incentive to work harder and develop skills. If you can leave your ego at the door, competition can be a great strategy to develop an abundant mindset.

3. Don’t Be a Lone Wolf, Learn from Others

Many people believe that their career journey is a solo activity, trying to achieve progress on their own. Once again, they see achievements in the light of competition, as winning and losing. However, no one achieves anything alone. Leaders have exceptional teams and remarkable people accomplish extraordinary milestones on the works of other great people. Get help and use the wisdom, experience, skills and knowledge of those around you. This is the true mindset of abundance, surrounding yourself with people who also have an abundance mentality. As they say, “No person is an island.”

4. Do More of What You Love

Spending time on activities that you love doing, prepares you to grow and challenge yourself at bigger opportunities. You can only confront and tackle new experiences when you view opportunities as exciting, energising and motivating. This is the abundant mindset. The most effective way to have a long-term boring, monotonous and stagnant career is to keep doing activities that you detest and loath. This leads you to a perspective of scarcity, because you will never desire or reach for anything better.

5. Ask, “How is this going to grow me?”

Change your key decision-making question from “What is this going to cost me?” to “How will this grow me and make me better?” When you ask a ‘cost’ question, you are actually asking if the ‘price is too high’. Unfortunately,

most people give up on a better future and bigger dreams when they think that cannot ‘afford’ it. They see limits: the cost for greater education is too high, the drive to work too long, or the numbers of hours of work too tedious and hard. However, great dreams and abundance are not achieved by factors that limit you, they are accomplished through greater risk taking, employing your greatest talents and stretching your potential. The only thing standing between you and greater abundancy is your limiting beliefs and asking the wrong questions.

Jeez! You’re So Negative!

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Intuitively, we all realize that change can be difficult, especially with our careers, and even more so during a career transition. Many people remain in stagnant jobs, not because they necessarily enjoy it or find it meaningful, but because of the salary, benefits and prestige that come with it. This is known as the “golden handcuffs”. You might be experiencing this yourself.

I have encountered many of these client situations because people reach a stage in their career, where it becomes difficult to leave. Money, power, and status are powerful incentives, while also providing a very tangible level of safety and security. When a person has attained a very high income or position within a company, these are very powerful motivators for him or her not to leave. In many ways staying can certainly make rational sense. Why leave a sure thing, for the unknown? Unfortunately, you will never attain a great, fulfilling, meaningful and rewarding career, if you stay in one that you dislike or even hate. You will not be able to reach true career joy, if there is no growth, and your truest and highest potential is never reached. 

There are countless examples of people having moderately successful jobs, who risked security to get to a more fulfilling, and even more profitable career. A very well-known individual who achieved this is Jeff Bezos. Bezos was a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw & Co., a wall-street based investment banking firm. Having been out of college, Bezos was 30 years old, and while he had a career that was very lucrative, he was personally unfulfilled. When Bezos told his boss at the investment firm that he was quitting to start Amazon, his boss told him, “You know what, Jeff, I think this is a good idea, but it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job.” As you know, Bezos never took his boss’s advice and is now worth an estimated $139 billion. Other famous people who took major career risks are Richard Branson, Vera Wang, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Elon Musk, Sam Yagan and Sara Blakely.

What is the real origin of the golden handcuffs and where does our aversion to risk come from? In my opinion, a central aspect of it is our human inclination towards a ‘negativity bias’. Psychologists define negativity bias as our tendency to “attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information”. Several experts believe that this ‘bias’ has an adaptive evolutionary function. It evolved thousands of years ago, when our ancestors were exposed to immediate environmental threats. For example, at one time we needed to worry about dangerous predators. It has been suggested that over time, this bias plays a role in our early development. Infants don’t have extensive experience to draw on during early stages of their life. To adapt to this lack of experience, a child learns very early that he/she should avoid things that could be aversive or harmful. This gives the infant better chances for survival. Our negativity bias helps us avoid potentially harmful objects and events when we don’t know much about them. In a nutshell, it leaves us with an innate fear of the unknown.

We Tend to Focus on the Negative

Unfortunately, our negativity bias makes us process information in a highly unbalanced and one-sided manner. Psychologists have noted that we perceive negative and positive occurrences differently, where negative events elicit more rapid and greater prominent responses than non-negative ones. As a result, the following can occur:

* We recall and think about insults more than compliments

* We respond more – emotionally and physically – to aversive (harmful) stimuli

* We tend to dwell on unpleasant or traumatic events more than pleasant ones

* We focus our attention more quickly on negative rather than positive information

Overcoming Negative Bias

1. Be Aware

When contemplating a career change the first step is to check in with yourself. Start to recognize any thoughts that are running chaotically through your mind. Be aware of both the helpful and unhelpful ones. It’s important to become more attuned to your own emotions. Are you experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, nervousness or worry? Being more mindful and incorporating mindfulness strategies are good ways to deal with negative emotions. By employing practices such as meditation, reflection and other mindfulness interventions, you can start to observe your feelings and thoughts more objectively. When you are more aware, you can adapt your view of negative experiences or events by taking a more balanced and positive perspective on them, instead of catastrophizing. You will also be able to tackle these head on, challenging negative feelings and thoughts, replacing them with more useful ones. By examining your reactions to stressors and anxiety-provoking events, you will start to recognize patterns in your thinking.

2. Challenge Your Language and Thoughts

During stressful moments, you will need to learn how to slow down your mind, challenging the automatic thoughts that you might have. This will allow you to replace them with more rational and realistic thinking, leading to more effective behavior. What you say to yourself during your thoughts is termed ‘self-talk’, and it matters. When self-talk focuses on thriving, it can provide essential motivation. Positive self-talk can help a person broaden their perspective and attitudes, which is essential during immediate moments of change, and also for longer-term future events. Rather than narrowly focusing on negative thoughts and threats that can increase a person’s doubts, fears and insecurities, it can promote self-assurance, certainty and confidence. However, just as self-talk can be an asset, it can also be a detriment. Over time, giving into negative self-talk can take a toll on one’s confidence, fostering insecurity and limiting personal growth. Challenging your language and thoughts is vital to your success because positive self-talk can aid in reducing your anxiety and improve your self-confidence.

3. Mitigate Real Risk

A vital part of making a successful career transition is to recognize the difference between catastrophic thinking and perceiving real risks. Making a career transition can be challenging, as it takes time, energy, resources and opportunities, while having significant consequences. There are many impacts that can occur during and after a career transition that involve finances, lifestyle, time demands, status and social networks. However, there are many activities that can successfully mitigate the risks during a career change. These include doing extensive career research, initiating a side hustle, taking part-time education and growing networking opportunities. Making a career change involves identifying real risks and negative consequences, not ignoring them.

4. Remember Your Potential

When making career decisions many people forget or don’t believe in one thing: their potential. Many people make new career decisions based on their past. There is a tendency for individuals to examine their prior work experience, skills and interests, and identify new career opportunities through this singular view. Unfortunately, many people repeat activities over and over, hoping to find greater fulfilment but never finding it. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Higher career fulfilment is found in progressively advancing yourself, and this requires a future perspective. True success is forward looking, and it involves your potential. Your potential consists of your passions, talents, outstanding personality traits and core values. These attributes help you to reach and define your highest career potential. When you hold on to a negative bias, you will only be perceiving loss, danger and harm. To have an extremely rewarding and gratifying career it encompasses all of your potential. In the end, overcoming a negativity bias should not be about remaining stuck in past failures and perceiving unrealistic risks. Success is always about keeping in mind what all the amazing possibilities are waiting for you, to reach them.

Avoiding Career Change Regret

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I would think that most people would agree that making a career change can be a little anxiety provoking at the very least, and completely terrifying at the very worst. Many people will make a career change fairly easily, but unfortunately, there will be many people who will be unsuccessful. During 2021, according to some statistics almost 50 million Americans quit their jobs. They were hoping for higher pay, better benefits and/or more exciting career options. This mass employment exodus was called the “Great Resignation”. However, also according to some statistics about a quarter of these individuals, roughly 12.5 million people ended up regretting their decision to leave. For many of these employee’s the grass was not greener on the other side and were left with feelings of tremendous regret. There are as many ways to make serious mistakes during a career change, as there are to make a correct one. My intention in writing this blog is to help you make correct ones.

Many career changes will not have disastrous consequences. However, when I think of a career change for my clients, it reminds me of those stories where kids get seriously injured when they go diving. I am sure that you have heard of them. These are the stories that involve children diving in their pools, gorges, grottos, lakes or other favorite body of water and end up getting gravely hurt or even paralyzed. These kids injure themselves because they initially think that the water is clear, only to find it was too shallow or there is a large rock lying just beneath the surface. What was supposed to be a day of fun, ends up in tragedy.

I am not saying that a career change will lead to a complete tragedy. It’s certainly not advantageous to have a catastrophic mindset when attempting to initiate a career change. Having this kind of mindset is what stops people from making a career transition in the first place. Many people can get completely caught up in a mind of “doom and gloom”. On the other extreme though, it’s not wise to have “pie in the sky” thinking either. If you are unrealistic with your expectations, then similar to those children, you will not be ready for the rocks underneath the surface of the water. Before you make any transition, you need to find out what kind of industry, company and work environment you are leaping into.

It’s easy to think that everything about a company you want to join will be great. However, you also need to find out if they have suffered severe losses during prior years, and will be trimming their work force. You will also need to know if there are employees leaving because one of their managers is completely blind to low company morale. You will also need to know after investing in a change in education, only to find out that the career you chose is not in high demand or that you need to go through lower paying positions to get to a higher one. There are strategies that you need to use to avoiding hitting the bottom of the pool or cracking your head on an unseen rock.

1. Specific Career Goal

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when changing careers is to not know what you really want. Many job changers get caught up in wanting a change for many reasons. They may have been a job too long, becoming bored. Some people encounter a boss or coworkers that they don’t get along with. There are also some who don’t want the long commute to the workplace anymore or feel they the job is way too much work.  A lot of individuals simply want higher pay. In these cases, people have an idea of what they don’t want. However, getting to a better job is not about avoiding what you don’t want, it’s about having very clear and specific expectations of what a happens after you get the new job. Why is this important? This is important because there is no such thing as a “perfect” job, there are only jobs that you think are perfect. Your commute may be too long, but the jobs that are closer, may not be as fulfilling. Wanting higher pay may mean having higher education, greater responsibilities or more work hours. Finally, bosses are bosses. Leaving one company for a supervisor that you dislike, does not mean you won’t go to another company and find one more supervisor that is just as bad or even worse. So, you need to be clear on your expectations and understand your specific career goals when making any transition. You must determine what’s really important to you in your career.

2. Clarity

To avoid jumping into the complete unknown, it’s important to have a clear idea of what your new work environment will be as much as possible. Many job seekers forget to complete the most important job activity when they are changing careers: it is research. Unless you really like bad surprises, it’s well worth your time and energy to investigate companies that you want to work for. I am not just talking about your salary, although this is very important. You need to have a greater awareness of other factors and conditions that will be just as important to you. All these important factors must be kept in mind along the entire spectrum of your entire career change. Important decisions start from the very beginning of your transition, as you consider moving into a new job role, right up to the interviewing stage where you are deciding on whether to join a company or not. Having the clearest picture of what lies ahead during your transition is vital. Some important factors and considerations to keep in mind include:

* Specific Job Responsibilities

* Financial Health of the Company and Industry Sector

* Salary Progression / Additional Benefits and Perks

* Training, Development and Growth Opportunities

* Work-Life Balance/Flexibility

* Organization / Team Culture and Morale

* Organizational Stability

* Management (Current Teams and Bosses)

3. Network

Most career experts will tell you to “never stop networking”, even when you are employed. In fact, the best time to network is when you are working, because building a network takes time, energy and consistency. These three elements are very scarce during an active job search. The primary way of finding a new successful career opportunity will not come through an application, posting or internet, it will come through a contact. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” A network is critical to your job search success and having to build an entirely new network during a search can dramatically increase the time in finding your next position. So, having a pre-existing network will be an extremely valuable resource. Unfortunately, many job changers rely way too heavily on searching through job postings, finding many dead ends. A successful career change will be dependent on your ability to reach out and make connections.

4. Know Your True Value

Many career changers believe that experience and education are valuable selling points to employers, and to a degree they are. However, what’s more important is your knowledge and skills for being able to successful manage all assigned responsibilities, while also effectively resolving all the problems and issues that come with the role that you are being considered for. In many ways, education alone may not be enough to make an employer view you as a suitable candidate for a position, and this is one reason why new graduates have many challenges during the initial part of their career. I once encountered an individual who decided to leave teaching and wanted to get into the HR field in training and development. She had many years of teaching, but none in the HR field. She was shocked to find out that her starting salary in the HR field would not be the same as being a teacher. She did not anticipate a decrease in wage and was stuck. So, if you are considering changing from one role into an entirely new role, you will need to gain clarity on your true worth in the labour market. Not only will you need to consider the appropriate education, you must properly use and leverage your prior career experience. Being able to effectively market and sell your experience and knowledge towards a new role will be a critical aspect in influencing the decisions of any hiring manager.

Are Career Assessments Actually Useful?

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I have heard many client stories about taking assessments. Some clients mention taking a “test” in high school, which told them to become Forest Ranger, when they hate the outdoors. Many of these people start to reject assessments because results like this one seem ridiculous. Other people have taken personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, commonly referred to as the MBTI for short. I always inquire into these results, if a client has taken it prior to working with me. Many will vaguely recall some of the “letters” but are not able to tell me what the interpretation of the assessment means. All of these incidents beg the question, do career assessments have any value at all? There is certainly debate within the career field, with many professionals administering many batteries of assessments, whereas some will never use a single one. These counsellors believe assessments have no value at all, preferring to rely on their own counselling methods and approaches.

So, what’s the clearer picture, when it comes to using career assessments? The bottom-line is that career assessments are simply tools, and similar to most tools they are designed to be used in very specific situations and elicit very specific results. They are like a surgeon’s scalpel. In the right hands, they can be used in the most complex and delicate surgeries, producing valuable results. However, in the wrong hands, a scalpel can lead to catastrophic disaster and/or death. Fortunately, the use of most psychometric instruments (this is what psychologists call assessments) will not lead to disaster or death. However, there are many complex assessments where only highly trained and certified practitioners can administer them. These are usually advanced clinical diagnostic assessments. Unfortunately, with the internet, there has now been a proliferation of assessments, some very useful, while others not so much. Many of these poorer assessments are as useful as reading tea leaves. However, in the right hands and in the correct situation, career assessments can have very powerful benefits when using them to support a major career change or providing support to a career management program.

1. Drives Greater Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection

A career assessment is about the process of evaluating your personal attributes such as your skills, interests, motivations, values, personality and other traits, enabling you to more effectively explore, identify and find a suitable career path. Career assessments can support you in developing greater self-awareness, which is about knowing yourself better. Ultimately, it is about a deeper assessment and interpretation of your actions, thoughts and feelings.

There are people in jobs where there is a major mismatch. If you are in a mismatched job, you will never come to a full realization of your potential assets and strengths. Worse, it may cause you constant stress. Unfortunately, if you are not in touch with your true emotions and thoughts, you will be a permanent a prisoner to these situations. Being unaware of your higher skills, fulfilling interests or most authentic values will prevent you from exploring and finding better career possibilities. Ultimately, this will stop your growth.

When you have greater self-awareness and reflection, you will have a deeper understanding of the reasons for why you are in the wrong career. In general, people have differing levels of self-awareness. However, it is individuals that have a greater awareness of their authentic nature that have a greater capacity to realize when a job is a very poor fit. These individuals will be either able to adapt more effectively or leave to find a more suitable job to who they truly are.

2. Provides Useful and Precise Self-Descriptors

Career assessments can provide wording and phrases to accurately describe specific traits. They provide language and definitions. For example, let’s say that you describe yourself as someone who “loves being with people”. What precisely does this imply? The word “love” can mean very different things to different people. However, if you take an assessment and discover that you are “extroverted”, it can provide you with more information about why you are motivated to be around people. It may also reveal the degree to how often you enjoy being with others, and even provide ways to use your “extroversion” as a strength in your career. Assessments can turn very subjective terminology into more objective measures, which is extremely helpful to exploring and identifying suitable job roles.

3. Enhances Successful Decision-Making

You can only make a good decision, if you know what you really want. Making a “right” decision is based on your own criteria about what you need and desire for yourself. Unfortunately, if you are unaware of what your needs are, which are direct reflections of your most authentic skills, interests, personality and values then decision-making becomes increasingly difficult. It can be challenging to choose between two, three or even multiple career options, if you are unaware of how fulfilling each one will be.

One way that people will choose among different jobs is to use a trial and error approach. Many people will select a job based on what may initially appear to be very appealing, only to find out that the job was not what they were expecting. Many individuals are also tempted to focus on salary and benefits. Once again there can be many jobs that pay very well but are completely unfulfilling. This is where knowing your most authentic self becomes an essential consideration. When you know the most important factors about yourself, then choosing the right career path becomes much easier. Choosing the right career requires a careful analysis of yourself and your own unique personal development.

4. Helps You to Define Your Distinct Abilities and Refine Your Talents

Have you ever been asked in an interview, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” I have guided people through interview preparation, and this should be a relatively straightforward question to answer, but for many it’s not. Quite a few people get stumped on trying to come up with answers that are truly authentic to themselves. Many people typically resort to some very common answers such as being “organized”, “a problem solver” or “great in a team”. If you are a person that has difficulty in answering this type of interview question, then I would argue that finding your own unique and special career talents might also be very challenging.

Developing and refining your greatest talents is a vital part of achieving a successful and rewarding career. However, you must first get know your unique talents, interests, values and personality traits. This will allow you to later refine and enhance them. Within different professions, ranging from music to art, the highest performers in the world spend countless hours refining their top skills. They understand what their top skills and interests are. This allows them to be highly dedicated to their art. It’s been noted that professional guitar players can spend an average of four to eight hours of practice per day. Additional research suggests that it takes an average of four hours of practice per day over a period of ten years to achieve an expert level. So, to be able to excel in any role, you will need to have a deeper understanding of your top skills, which will enable you to further refine and develop them. Career assessments can serve as an initial point to discovering and exploring your natural talents, interests and personality traits. Getting to know exactly what traits will serve you the best in your career will not only help you to survive but thrive. This is the key to achieving a highly rewarding and successful career.

If You Think “Quiet Quitting” is an Effective Career Management Strategy, Think Again!

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First, we heard about the “great resignation”. Today, many people are talking about “quiet quitting”. The way people are coping with work is certainly getting a lot of attention. With the pandemic significantly impacting the workplace, there has been a significant shift in the needs of both employers and employees. Having watched many videos and listened to the varying viewpoints on this topic, I wanted to understand this career phenomenon a little bit better. For those of you who have not heard about “quiet quitting”, I will elaborate. Quiet quitting is a term used to describe a person who is not outrightly quitting but has decided that he/she will not go above and beyond a job’s requirements. The person has decided to avoid performing any additional job duties, responsibilities and tasks, sticking strictly his/her job description.

For many people, they are doing this for two main reasons. First, they are in the process of being work fatigued or have completely burned out. They have reached their limit of mental, emotional or physical capacity. The other reason is that they may have already gone above and beyond what has been required but have not seen any additional rewards and recognition from the company. In the end, they have decided that putting in any extra effort to their job is not worth it. Regardless of the reasoning, at the heart of this debate centres on the differing work expectations and perspectives of the employer and employee.

Since there are many differing and numerous opinions on this topic, one can take a long time discussing it. People have many different perspectives and viewpoints. However, as a career counsellor/coach, I wanted to evaluate quiet quitting from a career management point of view. As a counsellor, I am always seeking successful career management strategies to support my clients in achieving more fulfilling, empowering and progressive careers. Having attempted to view this particular approach through the lens of career management, I have concluded it may not be a real beneficial one. With the exception of a person being on the verge of burning out or experiencing severe mental health issues, I see more downsides than advantages, if you use this approach. Here are some following main points:

Your Boss Won’t Like It!

I rarely see eye-to-eye with Kevin O’Leary. However, in a video post, he proposes that quiet quitting is a really bad idea. He mentions that creativity is necessary in any workplace. People are needed to go beyond what is typically required to solve significant problems for their teams, customers, managers and the company overall. If you are going to define your responsibilities by some strict definition of your job description then you are going to fail. You are being hired to solve problems. If you and your work are going to be recognized and rewarded, you will be required to do what you are supposed to do and even more.

In this case, I agree with Kevin. Today, the market is comprised of constant industry disruption and competition, and companies will only value those who can bring an exceptional level of work performance. All companies are functioning in a highly driven and competitive environment, and the highest priorities are to not only survive, but to thrive. Most managers will not have any appreciation or respect for a “I did my job, and that should be good enough” attitude. Many managers value people who are willing to go above and beyond. These people will be the ones that garner favor, admiration and recognition. As Kevin states, “Those are the people I seek. I seek them out. I hire them. People who shut down their laptop at five… want to go to the soccer game, nine-to-five only, they don’t work for me. I can tell you that. I hope they work for my competitors.”

Are You Only Working for a Paycheque?

It’s challenging to go above and beyond, if there is minimal or no motivation to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a person’s work-life balance can be very poor or putting in extra work time, resources and effort may not be really appreciated or recognized by a manager. In the end, a person’s salary and benefits will remain the same. However, I have and will always advocate for careers that are based on more than just a paycheque. A highly fulfilling and satisfying career is created on unique passions, meaning and purpose. It’s totally understandable why many people want to clock out at five, if they have not attained these qualities in their career. However, you need to explore, identify and do things that make you happy in your work. This can awaken and better connect you to what’s professionally meaningful. Having intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic rewards will always be more beneficial to you and your career. You need to go above and beyond for you, not for anyone else. If you are going above your job requirements for external recognition and rewards, or simply trying to avoid a manger’s punishment or reprimand, it will become increasingly difficult to get through your workdays as time goes by.

It’s Not a Successful Long-Term Strategy

Changes in the labour market are constantly occurring, along with possible job opportunities. In the present labour market climate, employers are finding it very challenging to find and retain employees. This is one main reason employees feel secure in quietly quitting. However, this occurrence is by no means permanent, and to maintain a successful career you need to keep this in mind. Employers in this period may overlook a person who is not going above and beyond, thinking that it may be challenging to find someone else as a replacement. Unfortunately, this will not always be the case, and during major recessionary periods, companies undergo major restructuring. When this happens, even the most qualified, experienced and knowledgeable will be challenged in finding and maintaining work. Thus, quiet quitting may effectively work in this time period because the work climate supports it. However, when the labour market changes, your employer may take on a completely different perspective of employees that attempt to fly under the radar.   

You Won’t Develop or Grow 

Not going above and beyond may get you through your workday, but it is not a successful strategy for a long-term progressive and prosperous career. A key aspect of any successful career management strategy is growth and development. Individuals in careers need to continue to grow, or they remain stagnant or dissatisfied. I have worked with many clients who want to change because they have been in their jobs too long. They constantly perform the same repetitive tasks and responsibilities. However, there’s a saying that goes “change is inevitable, growth is optional”. This means that change will always occur, but growth is a choice. As I mentioned, disruptions and restructures dominate today’s job market. These are changes that everyone will experience, but many people will not necessarily achieve positive career growth. If you want to successfully reach your goals and achieve growth, then you must have a solid and well-defined career strategy, along with taking action. Proactively managing your career, while growing and developing your skills, knowledge and experience will give you the abilities and resources to successfully handle and respond to challenging career disruptions, while also support you in reaching your highest career potential.

3 Ways to Enhance Your Career Success

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I believe that most people want a successful career. Unfortunately, there will be many people who won’t achieve it. They are many that are stuck in work of endless routine and stress. But, have you thought about what the important factors are that contribute to career success? Is it your education, the supervisor at your  company or the kind of experience you have that are the key influences? Is it sheer luck? Certainly, these and many other factors play a role in a person’s career success. However, as a counsellor working with clients over many years, I believe that there are three really important areas: proactivity, opportunities and progression. Not being consciously intentional and making poor decisions in these vital areas will limit you from attaining a successful career.

Have a Proactive Career

Proactivity is about the level of direct control that you take over your own career. This essential concept was presented in Stephen R Covey’s best-known book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was first published in 1989, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide. In his book, he introduced important aspects of the Proactive Model. Proactivity is the opposite to reactivity. Upon experiencing change, reactive individuals have a tendency to let their physical environment significantly affect them. Life for reactive people becomes highly random, being caught up in whatever surrounds them. If the weather is bad, they feel bad. When others around them are negative, they are negative. There is an overreliance on external circumstances to influence their attitude, decisions and perspectives. Conversely, proactive people carry their own personal “weather” with them. Whether it’s grey or sunny, they remain independent of it. Proactive people are driven by carefully developed internal values that are deliberately chosen and internalized.

As a career counsellor, I encounter many clients that allow their company, work setting, life events and people around them dictate what happens in their career. This is especially true with downsizing and restructuring. In this age of labour market disruption, there are people who have a “wait and see” attitude. They wait for disruption to occur, and then decide what to do at that specific point in time. Unfortunately, this reactive approach severely limits opportunities and choices. Reacting to a restructure or downsizing is similar to a ship being caught in a very bad storm, with the possibility of it sinking. People who are reactive, let the external environment entirely control their outcomes. A more effective strategy would be to prepare for impending disasters and create concrete action plans. Better yet, it’s well worth to gain grater knowledge and understanding, attempting to foreseeing possible dangers. The most effective strategy is to avoid catastrophes all together. Always be proactive, creating and developing a strong career management strategy for yourself. If you don’t have a proactive career strategy, you will constantly find yourself in a reactionary and random mindset, with little or no control. The question you need to ask is, “Are your proactively managing your career or is your career managing you?

Expand Your Career Opportunities

Many career experts and professionals will tell you to “never stop networking”, even when you are employed. Yet, many people do not maintain an active network. When I work clients, I will typically ask them about their LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, most clients mention setting up a profile, but never touch it again. I understand that many people do not like social media when it comes to work. However, the key idea here is not about being on social media, it’s about maintaining an active network and connections.

A connection to other people is critical to your career success. One powerful story to illustrate the importance of connection involves how Harrison Ford got the role for Han Solo in the movie, Star Wars. It was legendary producer Fred Roos that had hired Ford to complete work for him at a film production office. Before Ford became a famous actor, he worked as a carpenter. Ford built a door in one of the offices. Roos stated, “Harrison had done a lot of carpentry for me.” He added, “He needed money, he had kids, he wasn’t a big movie star yet. The day he was doing it, George (Lucas) happened to be there. It was serendipitous.” George Lucas was the director of Star Wars. At the time, he was holding a casting call in the very same office. As it happened, Ford auditioned, and the rest is history.  One could make that argument that the meeting was all just one amazing coincidence or accident. However, I really beg to differ. It’s obviously clear that if Ford did not have that initial connection to Fred Roos, there would have been no opportunity for that one single audition. Ford would have never been in that same office, as Lucas. If there was no audition, we would not have Star Wars as we know it today. There would also be a different Indiana Jones, and possibly no Blade Runner. Indeed, Harrison Ford might have remained a complete unknown.

The connections that you have in your network will be at the heart of finding your greatest opportunities. Unfortunately, most people never build a large professional network, and this limits their career success. Always seek to grow and expand your network, they are a doorway to many unforeseen and potential opportunities. 

Create an Amazing Career Vision and Career Goals

A famous person once said, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” This statement is also true of your career. There are millions of people in jobs that simply struggle to get through their day. They wait from their work days to be over. They are in a dead job, repeating the same meaningless activities over and over again. Many people question why they are showing up to work. However, the ironic thing is that they never stop to wonder why their job is not fulfilling. This might even be you!

Expansion, evolution and change are the key to attaining greater career fulfillment, otherwise you will remain inactive and stagnant. Having a clear career vision with progressive career goals will help you establish a more meaningful and purposeful connection to your work. A clear vision will support your career progress, and along with this growth provide greater enjoyment and satisfaction. It’s important to keep in mind that everyday work experiences and interactions offer tremendous growth in knowledge and skills. However, this will only happen if you treat every moment and opportunity with a full intention. It’s easy to be very unconscious with repetitive work activities. However, actively engaging and taking opportunities to grow will help you move forward. Do not let chances to broaden your experience, expand your skills and deepen your knowledge go by ignored. Maximize them. Acting with conscious intention on exciting growth opportunities and moving towards your own meaningful vision should always be part of your daily career activities.